Cute Little Monsters, Aren’t They?

Apple releases a product that makes this pundit wander over to the dark side.

“Oooh!,” I squealed (and if you can’t imagine this ex-goat roper squealing, that’s just a clue that you don’t know everything about me), “Cute! I want one!”

“Em!,” came Fabio’s dulcet tones from the kitchen, “we agreed: no pets!”

Silly boy. I wasn’t looking at a pet - at least, not any sort of animal one. This was back in January, and Steve Jobs had just proudly announced the new Mac Mini.

Now, Auntie knows that most of you readers are dyed-in-the-wool Windows types. I know, you make fun of the Mac all the time: “it only has one button on its mouse! The trash can isn’t an intuitive way to eject a floppy! It costs more than a PC!” But you know, you’re among friends here, so you can admit it: When you first saw the cute little monster, you wanted one too.

One of the amazing things about Apple has been their continuing ability to provoke product lust, even in those who should know better. Ever since the Mac Mini was unveiled, Auntie has been hearing a variety of justifications for buying one:

  • It’s so cheap, I can use it to learn MacOSX without investing a ton of money. That makes me more salable.
  • It’s quiet and small, so it’s a good home media server, and I need one of those.
  • You can buy two of them, and stick on external FireWire hard drives, and get a great little fully-redundant file/mail/print server for low bucks.

I’m especially amused by the last one, which has even spawned businesses looking to collocate your Mac Mini servers at their facility, and plans to use them for grid computing or clustering. C’mon, folks, who are you kidding? Once you start slapping on external drives and throwing in extra memory to make a decent server, you might as well buy, well, a server. You know, a machine with more reliable hard drives, a better warranty, and a plug instead of an external power supply.

As for Auntie…well, I’m buying one for research purposes. Yes, that’s right, research! I’ve got to keep up with the competition to keep writing these columns, honest. What games come on this thing, anyhow?

But really, how much justification do you need for buying one? By now, your significant other is probably fully aware of your computer hardware addiction. For most of you, $500 isn’t all that much money, either (oh, okay: $1,100 after you get adding just those “few” options that you absolutely must have). For that, you get a new toy that looks good and that you can hide under your desk, so that no one knows you succumbed to the lure of the Mac (as long as you don’t flip the KVM switch over to it, anyhow).

Of course, danger lurks in this devil-may-care attitude. You just might discover that you like OSX. You might find yourself leaving the KVM switch on that setting for longer and longer time periods. You might end up with an Xserver instead of a machine from Dell or IBM the next time you need to do some serious hosting in the data center. Why, you might even contribute to breaking Microsoft’s near-monopoly on the desktop!

But would that be such a bad thing? Look at it this way: every Mac Mini sold to a former Windows die-hard is one more little bit of incentive for the Windows team to fix some of the things that drive us all nuts. Tired of security holes? Had it with the quirks of Windows networking? Wondering when a new version of Internet Explorer will ever appear? Sick of struggling with the custom schema in your Active Directory? Buy a Mac Mini and send a note to the Windows team. Heck, include a picture. If enough people drive them crazy this way, maybe they’ll get fired up and deliver some truly astounding software to win us back.

And speaking of getting won back…Fabio’s voice just drifted out of the kitchen again, and this time it was to call me to dinner. Smells like lobster - which in my book, beats both Macs and PCs any day.

About the Author

Em C. Pea, MCP, is a technology consultant, writer and now budding nanotechnologist who you can expect to turn up somewhere writing about technology once again.

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